Severe aplastic anemia: allogeneic bone marrow transplantation as first-line treatment

Blood Adv. 2018 Aug 14;2(15):2020-2028. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2018021162.


Treatment of severe aplastic anemia has improved significantly over the past 4 decades. This review will summarize the key areas of progress in the use of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation and nontransplant immunosuppressive therapy (IST) for the treatment of aplastic anemia and then summarize the recommendations for first-line treatment. Based on recent data, we argue that guidelines for the initial treatment of patients with newly diagnosed severe aplastic anemia require revision. At the time of diagnosis, before beginning treatment, HLA typing should be done to identify a marrow donor among family members or in the unrelated donor registries, and a marrow transplant should be considered first-line therapy. The priority order of donor source for bone marrow transplantation is: (1) HLA-identical sibling, (2) HLA-matched unrelated donor, and (3) HLA-haploidentical donor if an HLA-matched unrelated donor is not rapidly available. Each of these donor marrow sources may be preferable to nontransplant IST. We make this recommendation because of the long-term persistent risk for disease relapse and secondary myelodysplastic syndrome or acute myeloid leukemia with the use of nontransplant IST for patients with aplastic anemia. In contrast, marrow transplantation is associated with high cure rates of aplastic anemia and a relatively low risk for graft-versus-host disease, with many patients now living for decades without the risk for disease recurrence or the development of clonal disorders. Implementation of this first-line treatment strategy will provide patients with severe aplastic anemia the best chance of long-term disease-free survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allografts
  • Anemia, Aplastic / immunology
  • Anemia, Aplastic / pathology
  • Anemia, Aplastic / therapy*
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation*
  • Donor Selection*
  • Histocompatibility Testing*
  • Humans
  • Unrelated Donors*